FSPA ready to begin new novitiate experience in Chicago
“The program will be very exciting,” begins Sister Corrina Thomas, co-minister of incorporation for FSPA. “It is something we have dreamed of.” Sister Corrina is referring to the FSPA Novitiate program in Chicago, Illinois, where Sisters Michele Pettit and Meg Earsley now live. Joining them are Sisters Corrina, Helen Elsbernd and Julia Walsh.
The Chicago location provides a broader discerning community. Weekly, they will meet with the Intercommunity Novitiate program at Techny in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Last year, 63 men and women in formation and their formators were involved in the program. This year’s group will participate in weekly meetings, run much like an all-day workshop. In addition, conferences and educational opportunities for the formators are interspersed throughout the year.
Filling the rest of their week, the novices will audit a Scripture class through Catholic Theological Union and participate in a ministry day (CTU will provide ministry opportunites and lead a theological reflection). Sister Michele and Meg will also have a hermitage day of quiet contemplation to facilitate discernment, and study congregational history, FSPA constitutions and other subjects pertinent to religious life.
The FSPA Novitiate program location provides access to other nearby novitiate houses, including those of the Maryknolls, OFM Franciscan Brothers, Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Christian Brothers, Passionists and others. It is also close to several religious organizations headquartered in offices at CTU including Giving Voice, Religious Formation Conference, North American Conference of Associates and Religious, and Communicators for Women Religious. “All are waiting for us to come; all are within walking distance,” adds Sister Corrina. “Sister Michele and Meg will meet people of many cultures, colors and languages; it will be very enriching for them. The novitiate lays the cornerstone for the rest of their religious life. It’s a special time.”
Meg was welcomed into the novitiate before departing for Chicago. Sister Michele will enter her second year of novitiate. Both will complete what is considered their canonical years in Chicago.
When asked about her biggest hope for the program, Sister Corrina says she wants to create a space that is meaningful to both Sister Meg and Sister Michele. “As women religious, we all look back and say ‘when I was a novice ... ’ I want this time to be meaningful and enriching for them.” She adds that the process will be challenging as well. “This will be a time when we ask ourselves the deep questions: ‘What is God asking of me? Is FSPA community life what I want? Is God calling me to religious life?’ Very fundamental, foundational questions. It’s an intense discernment time: the two of them discerning FSPA and FSPA discerning them.We are deeply grateful for the blessings Sisters Michele and Meg are to us and to the FSPA leadership and community who are supporting and praying us into this new and exciting journey in our congregational history.”